Controversy continues over Hawick Community Council election bungle

Hawick community councillor Cameron Knox.
Hawick community councillor Cameron Knox.

Hawick Community Council’s latest meeting descended into chaos this week after a row erupted over its recent election of a new vice-chairman.

Scottish Borders Council officers have advised community councillors that the election at February’s meeting of Graham Marshall as vice-chairman was not valid because the role, held until then by Hawick Common Riding committee chairman Cameron Knox, was not vacant.

A regional council spokesperson said at the time: “While we can’t take any action to force the community council to rectify the situation, we have advised them that we consider they should.”

However, new chairperson Gillian Morgan said the community council had decided against taking that advice and planned to retain Mr Marshall, a fellow new councillor, in the post rather than reinstating Mr Knox.

That decision enraged members of the public gathered at a bad-tempered community council meeting at Hawick High School on Monday night, many of them there to show their support for Mr Knox.

Mrs Morgan said: “The advice from Scottish Borders Council is only advice. What we choose to do with that advice is our choice.”

Mr Knox said: “I spent a lot of time in this job and I think, with the public’s backing, I did a good job.”

To a round of applause, Mr Knox added: “I will continue, as far as I’m concerned, as vice-chair of Hawick Community Council.”

Mr Marshall responded: “I think it is a gross misrepresentation to suggest that anyone tried to dethrone anyone.

“What happened is there was an election for chair and Gillian was elected. There was then an election for vice-chair and I was elected.

“Scottish Borders Council did give us some advice, which, after some consideration, we think is flawed.”

Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage urged the new council to rethink its stance, saying: “I’m appalled at this. I’m really appalled. Where is the common sense?

“I agree that Cameron should stay as vice-chair, even just to give you direction.”

Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull chaired the bungled election of the community council’s office bearers last month, and he has apologised for the misunderstanding that led to Mr Marshall ousting Mr Knox after a 7-5 vote.

“The advice from the senior legal advisers at the council quite clearly states that the election was null and void, end of story,” said Mr Turnbull.

It was decided to opt for a compromise and that Mr Marshall and Mr Knox should share the role of vice-chair in the short-term until a long-term solution can be agreed.